Minutes after Monday night's game, I called New York's Associated Press offices with my final ballot of the season:

1. Alabama

2. Notre Dame

3. Ohio State

4. Oregon

5. Georgia

6. Texas A&M

7. Stanford

8. South Carolina

9. Florida State

10. Clemson

11. Kansas State

12. Florida

13. LSU

14. Louisville

15. Northwestern

16. Boise State

17. Utah State

18. Oklahoma

19. Michigan

20. Texas

21. Oregon State

22. Northern Illinois

23. Vanderbilt

24. Nebraska

25. Arkansas State

I realized placing Notre Dame at No. 2 would raise eyebrows. I put a premium on getting there. There's a lot to be said for that. The Irish were beaten thoroughly, I know. But Alabama was hitting on all cylinders. Only a few teams could've stayed close to the Tide on a night like that. And I do give Brian Kelly's squad some credit for fighting hard until the end despite the lopsided score.

Ohio State over Notre Dame? Close call. But I think the Irish pushed through a tougher schedule and had wins that were more impressive. They beat a good Miami team 41-3, Stanford 20-13 and pounded Oklahoma 30-13 in Norman, a very difficult place to play.

Ohio State defeated Michigan State 17-16; Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 20-3.  Yes, Notre Dame slipped past Purdue 20-17, but Ohio State needed overtime to nip the Boilermakers.

Folks also like to point to Notre Dame's narrow escapes against BYU and Pitt. Well, Ohio State struggled against lowly Cal and Alabama-Birmingham, and surrendered 49 points in a win against Indiana. So don't tell me Ohio State has a convincing edge over Notre Dame. It's a close call ...

I'll take the Irish.

-- Think about this for a second: Alabama returns eight starters on offense (counting the top two running backs) and seven starters on defense.

-- Notre Dame or Oregon? Well, Notre Dame defeated Stanford, something Oregon couldn't manage on its home field.